The Lawyer of the Week, Episode 18, Washington, DC
Gene Quinn, Patent Attorney &
Founder & Publisher of IP Watchdog, Inc.
Pamela: Hi My name is Pamela and welcome to Lawyer of the Week. This week I’d like to introduce you to Gene Quinn.
Gene Quinn is a patent attorney and a leading commentator on patent law and innovation policy.
Gene is a patent attorney and a leading commentator on patent law and innovation policy. Mr. Quinn is the Founder and Editor of IPWatchdog.com, which he started in 1999.
IPWatchdog.com has been recognized multiple times by the American Bar Association as a top 100 legal blog, multiple times as the top IP blog, and in 2014 was inducted into the ABA Blawg Hall of Fame. In 2017 he was also recognized as one of the World’s Leading IP Strategists by IAM.
He is regarded as an expert on software patentability, and patent procedure, Mr. Quinn’s particular specialty is in the area of strategic patent consultancy, portfolio building, and patent prosecution strategies. He also regularly advises attorneys and clients on litigation strategy and appeals. Mr. Quinn also works with start-up businesses throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Mr. Quinn is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney licensed to practice before the United States Patent Office and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Pamela: Welcome Gene.
Gene Quinn: Thank you thanks for having me.
Pamela: I am so happy that you’re our Lawyer of the Week. I’d like to ask you our Lawyer of the Week questions. The first question is when and what made you decide to become a lawyer?
Gene Quinn: Well that’s an interesting question that goes all the way back to high school. I always had an interest in the law, and I also had an interest in science. And, I was very good at math. I think when you are good in math and science one of the things that they encourage you to do is engineering.
I went to an all-boys prep school taught by Christian brothers, and so we had excellent counseling. They took an outstanding interest in us, and college was always where we were expected to go. It just was what we were supposed to do.
So they gave us these tests. Today everybody’s taking tests to figure out what you’re good at. Back when I was in high school, I think, it was revolutionary. I took this test I scored equally on engineering and law.
The guidance counselor looked at me, and he says, “You know if you go to college with an idea of going to law school, you’ll never be an engineer. But, if study engineering you could always go to law school.”
That made a lot of sense to me. So I actually really went to college fully expecting that I was going to probably not cut it as an engineer. Because so many people go and the very first day they have the look-to-the-left-look-to-the-right-speech.
But I made it. I didn’t I didn’t do incredibly well, but I got through, and I made it. I realized that I really wanted to give the law a try. And then I took to the law much better than I ever did with engineering. When you’re in law school, and you’re an engineer, that’s when you get into patent law. It’s been a strange path, but I love it.
Pamela: That’s wonderful. Now you began writing a blog. Can you tell us how that all started?
Gene: Yeah, you know that’s you know another interesting story that goes back a long, long way.
You know I started in 1999. This was a bunch of friends and me back during the dot COM era. We were going to all get rich.
Remember the time when all you needed was a domain name and had a dot COM, and you were going to become rich and famous. Money was being thrown around. Well, the thing that we knew was Intellectual Property and so we decided that we were going to try and start a website.
We were all interested. We were kids, really. We were in our mid to late twenty’s. We were going to start this website to give information on companies based on their Intellectual Property portfolio.
As so frequently happens in the Intellectual Property space, particularly the Patent area, one person got a better offer that was paying a lot of money, and the other person got an offer that was paying a lot of money.
Soon pretty much it was just me. I had already bought the domain name. So, I just decided, I was writing a lot, I had started teaching, and I just started putting stuff up on the web. A couple of years later, I was just randomly having put things up on the Internet.
One day I was checking the statistics and realized that we were getting like ten or fifteen thousand people a month reading just the things I was just randomly putting up about patent law. And, I thought to myself at that moment, back in this probably about 2001 or 2002 that this could be a business or a complement to a business.
Pamela: That’s great so what are your biggest wins and challenges with your blog? Well, you tell our audience what it’s called first?
Gene: Sure, it’s IPWatchdog.com, and IP stands for Intellectual Property. We primarily write about patents and innovation policy at least that’s what I write about. We have others that also write about copyrights in trademarks and trade secrets.
We dabble a little bit in Internet stuff like maybe net neutrality, occasionally and that sort of thing. But it’s primarily a patent blog.
One of the things that has been a challenge, I guess you asked about challenges and successes right?
Gene: One of the challenges has been when we began; we didn’t start out as a blog because back when we started there were no blogs.
Gene: We started as a website, and it was static HTML, and then blogs came along, and it was great simply because it made it easy to update your website and refresh it and you could focus on content. It is a content management system.
But blogs started to get a really bad name because what happened is anybody who had an Internet access and a computer could put up a blog.
So, I’ve had to try and develop this niche. Not just me but a lot of others. But, in the legal space, there are not a whole lot of us who really do it and have been committed to it for the long haul. It’s been a challenge because there’s no playbook on how to actually do this.
For example, if you’re going to open up a restaurant, you can go to get a business plan book. You can read books about people who have succeeded or failed and why they fail.
The same can be said for law firms. I’m a substantive expert, and I try to walk that media–journalists-commentator line while still having clients. That has been a challenge. I’ve navigated it, I think, pretty well. I have clients who want me to do work and bring work in for the firm. But, the work that I’ve done because my reputation is increasingly becoming different is more of a consultant.
One of the things that lawyers make a mistake is when they’re writing to try and get notoriety is that they write like lawyers which becomes a little boring.
I actually take a position and a point of view and sometimes it upsets people. So, me as the front face as an attorney representing you depending upon what your position is may not be in your best interests. A lot of times what I find myself doing now is more consulting in the background.
In terms of successes, I will tell you, having done this, I’ve gone much further and made more connections and more friends and more inroads into the industry much earlier in my career than I ever a could have possibly imagined.
In some respects, you know when you go to some of these attorney events and when you’re young you sit if there are ninety-nine tables you’re at table ninety-nine. And where you fit in is kind of based on what table you sit.
And I have managed to navigate my way through. I think I contribute to the industry in a positive way. That has all been very rewarding I think. And, to some extent very humbling because I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be doing this.
Pamela: It’s a great story so. You’re kind of; I don’t know you don’t want to use that word loosely. It’s like your blog is a sort of a celebrity in that niche.
Gene: You know I guess so. I mean my wife says I’m a ROCK STAR.
And you know other people sometimes I go to these events, and they kind of treat me like a celebrity. It’s funny sometimes people come up to me just they want to take a picture with me.
Actually, I had somebody for the first time asked me for my autograph. That was like I almost didn’t know what to sign. I think I signed it backward. I think you’re supposed to say the message and then sign your autograph on the bottom after the message. I don’t know what to do it some of these situations. It’s a little bizarre, but in this little tiny pond, I guess of patent law my blog, and I have become a big deal.
I think that what I try to do is I just try to keep it real. What people say, what people really think of me, and what they tell me is this, “You write the things that everybody thinks and is afraid to say.”
And I suppose that’s really what I’m trying to do. Now a lot of lawyers can’t do that and the firm that I’m with is a smaller firm, and they give me the freedom to do that. And that’s been great.
Pamela: That’s really something. So, with all of this, what kind of legacy would you like to leave?
Gene: You know that’s an interesting question because you know I haven’t really thought about it all that that much. Although, I have thought about this a little, simply because I have a few friends who are librarians at law schools.
One librarian, a few years ago, told me that at some point, that I need to think about what I want to do with my papers.
I’m like, “What do you mean papers? I mean it’s like I’m the President of the United States? Why would anybody really care about these papers?”
But, I guess I’ve written by now I think I’m approaching three thousand articles.
Pamela: Oh my.
Gene: You know, and some of them are not what I’m most proud of. But, some I’m quite proud, so I have to stop and think about that. I guess what my legacy I would like it to be.
Number one is: I wasn’t afraid to say the things I really believed. And, if along the way, I said things for those people who really didn’t have a voice in the industry and got their point of view out with a bit of a megaphone so it could be considered, I think then my career will be a success.
I mean you know I am doing pretty well. I could probably make more money if I were practicing law. Not probably. I would be making more money if I was practicing law but this is really rewarding, and I’m not I’m not hurting, so it’s a good life.
Pamela: Excellent, So you said that you are really doing more consulting then practicing law right now?
Gene: I would say yes. And that’s by conscious design. I also do some like if people want me to do things on the front end, primarily with inventors. If they want to know whether they’ve got something that’s patentable whether they should be moving forward with a patent and developing patent strategies and that sort of thing.
I will help with that sort of thing, but you know sometimes I write things that might be upsetting to the patent office. Sometimes they like what I write. I really don’t want clients to get tainted by that. Some clients really like the fact that I do that and you know they seek me out for that kind of advice. But, it’s more behind the scenes kind of a thing.
Pamela: Well, I want to ask you our final Lawyer of the Week question, which I ask everyone. Name something that you do to manage your stress levels?
Gene: Well, two things come to mind. One is I work out. When I don’t work out, my whole body responds negatively. Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to consciously make time for myself.
During the summer I’ve also gotten into gardening as a hobby. You know and that kind of feeds into the whole trying to have a more healthy lifestyle. Because I struggle with my weight, I’ve done that my entire life. So I try and live a more healthy lifestyle if I if I can and stay as active as I can. That kind of lets me clear my mind. And, there are some other things that I do too.
But the other big thing that I have done that I think has helped a lot. I’ve tried to the greatest extent possible, and as a lawyer this is never easy, to try not to work weekends. Or, when I work weekends, I try to keep it to an hour or two maybe on Saturday and maybe work an hour or two on Sunday. And I really minimize that because I found I was just working seven days a week and there was always work to be done.
You can always come up with stuff to do. When you’re doing that, I found it was just stressing myself out because there’s never any time to recharge. It’s never like you get to the bottom of the pile anyway.
What I found was that’s when I started trying to take some time for myself to number one, to work out and enjoying hobbies like gardening, not getting to the bottom of the pile didn’t affect the bottom line.
It didn’t affect clients or my work responsibilities. What needed to get done still got done. I don’t know exactly how or why that occurred maybe I just became much more efficient.
I think that that’s part of it. When you’re really looking and trying to say, “Hey I want this time this weekend for my family and me.”
Then you know Friday afternoon gets a lot more efficient.
Pamela: (laughter) that is so true. Well, I appreciate you being our Lawyer of the Week and it’s fascinating. I really look forward to learning more about your blog because you said you set the standard
Gene: Thank you. I really appreciate being a Lawyer of the Week, and it was great talking to you.
Pamela: Thank you!
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